The ACP was founded in 1982 by Dr. Gerald Mader, who was then the Provincial Councillor for Cultural Affairs in Burgenland. He himself said that the idea was born in the course of his reflections on what cultural policy could contribute to the reduction of the East-West conflict during the Cold War, and in a region that was located at the apparent end of Western Europe along the Iron Curtain. Supported by Hertha Firnberg, then Federal Minister of Science, the two founded the association "Austrian Institute for Peace Research", today's ACP, as private individuals.
In the first 10 years, the activities were concentrated on research and publications, in 1983 the ACP Summer Academy was held for the first time and in 1984 the State-of-Peace Conference. Both events still take place annually.
At the same time an impressive infrastructure was created:
The offices were set up in Schlaining Castle, the castle bastion became a modern conference centre, the former forge and arsenal of the castle became the Hotel Burg Schlaining, and the former Synagogue in Stadtschlaining was renovated and became the home of the Peace Library.
At the end of the 1980s, the sister institute "European University Centte for Peace (EPU)" was also founded and in the course of this, a modern student dormitory, the Haus International, was built. And Gerald Mader’s wife Getrud took over the management of Haus International.
In the 1990s, the expansion of the portfolio was marked by the end of the Cold War and the war in former Yugoslavia. In 1993, the first training program for civilian experts to be deployed to crisis regions was offered worldwide. The "International Civilian Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Training Programme (IPT) is still part of the training portfolio today. The ASPR also began to support dialogue processes and mediation between conflict parties. The regional focus for this was the South Caucasus and the former Yugoslavia.
Since the activities now went beyond research, it was decided to give the institute a new name. Since 2022 it is now called the "Austrian Centre for Peace".
In 2000, the ACP organized the Burgenland regional exhibition on the subject of “From the cult of violence to the culture of peace”, which was then converted into the European Museum for Peace. The ACP operated the museum until the end of 2019.
The first decade in the new millennium was marked by the expansion of the ACP training programs. In 2001 the EU Commission accepted the ACP offer to support training for EU missions. The ACP was commissioned to develop Europe-wide training standards and harmonized training offers together with other European training institutions. All EU training offers for civilian skilled workers are based on this project to this day, and the ACP is still an active member of the EU training consortia. Activities in the field of peace education were also expanded. Since 2007 the ACP has been offering training for students and teachers with the “Peace Weeks”.
In Europe, the ruling politics can only change if it is possible to bring about a general rethink with the help of civil society.
Such a change in consciousness would mean:
- Away from the friend / foe thinking of politics towards a readiness for global cooperation and solidarity with all peoples and cultures;
- Away from the competitive thinking of the neoliberal mentality and a return to a sense of community, social justice and enlightenment ethics;
- Away from the realpolitik of national interests to a cosmopolitan consciousness;
- Away from hierarchical power politics to more self-restraint, moderation and a little humility.
Gerald Mader in “From utopia to reality. Peace work in Stadtschlaining - review and reflection", 2016